Firstly, I must admit that the title of my talk tonight is borrowed from a book written by my friend, the late Muhammad Youssef Hammoud. He was a native of the town of Naameh on the Chouf coast, a writer, poet, and professor. A graduate of the Faculty of Sharia in Beirut, he was one of the pillars of the National Library in Lebanon.
The sole reason for borrowing this title was that I couldn’t find a more fitting description for the situation of the Palestinian people. Their night has been too long, longer than any human being could endure.
No matter how long it takes, the olive will not forget the one who rooted it, nor will the field forget the one who dug it, the stone will not forget the one who sculptured it, nor will the culture forget its creators.
For seventy-five years, our people in Palestine have suffered under the rule of racial discrimination, tyranny, and persecution. They have endured uprooting, confiscation of homes, occupation of neighborhoods, falsification of documents, arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, and murder.
During these three-quarters of a century, countless hearts have been broken. Many families have been torn apart, many people have left their land and emigrated, and many families have sought refuge in camps within their own homeland. It is an alienating and painful experience to be just around the corner from your ancestral home and yet forbidden to live in it because some squatter from a distant horizon has occupied it by force of arms. This occupier is supported by a supposed entity that the West considers one of the oases of democracy and freedom in the Arab countries.
Anyone familiar with the daily lives of Palestinians can see the amount of oppression and humiliation they suffer due to the difficulties created by the occupation forces and the obstacles they place in their life endeavors.
Today, with what is happening in Gaza, people are reminded of all the massacres committed by the occupation that made it the basis of its existence. They are reminded of the crimes it practices on a daily basis until they become inherent in the lives of Palestinians.
All this is taking place on the Holy Land where the Master Incarnated, spread His message, was oppressed, judged, crucified and then triumphed over nothingness.
What is happening in Gaza has been described in a statement that we distributed this morning at the Middle East Council of Churches. We will not describe it again here. Instead, we will listen to honest people who refused to be silent in the face of injustice. They employed their thought and values in advocating for a people who remain steadfast in the face of injustice, resisting oppression with resilience and enduring hardship while clinging to their land and heritage.
Every day, we ask ourselves, where are the honest and free people of the world who do not raise their voices against injustice and oppression? Why does the disinformation spread by paid media professionals triumph over the truth? Why don’t people believe those who tell them the truth about what is happening in Palestine? Has truth become limited to what is reported in the media? Everyone knows who controls the world’s media and who excels at synthesizing and falsifying images and live scenes.
Has the international community become deaf to the moans of children and the cries of the grieving? Where is the Christian West in all this? Have they forgotten what Jesus had commanded them to do? Is the allure of oil and gas more appealing than the splendor of Bible verses?
Have weapons and ammunition factories begun to dictate humanity’s values? It seems we are reverting to a primitive status that we thought was outdated, but humanity appears to remain the same, albeit with some decoration or masks.
Thank you all, clergy and laity as You accepted our invitation within hours, responded courageously to the call of conscience and belonging, and came to bear witness to a cause that history will record in letters of light.
Thank you for being beacons in your surroundings, shining through the darkness of this long night.
Special thanks go to the three advisors at the Middle East Council of Churches, who are in charge of the Human Dignity Program, for their quick response and their ability to organize this seminar within a few hours. Rest assured that the sound of this seminar will be heard far and wide.
Dr. Michel E. Abs